Wednesday, April 16, 2014

City monitoring oil-by-rail process in Benicia

From page A7 | February 11, 2014 | 8 Comments

In a small win for local opponents of more oil cars traveling through Davis by rail, a staff report released Friday evening said city staff are in contact with their Benicia counterparts and monitoring a development proposal.

The issue is whether the city of Benicia will vote to approve a new rail terminal that would allow at least twice the number of oil cars to dock and unload at the refinery.

It’s a complex issue, where the concerns of other cities like Davis can be boiled down to this: train cars rolling through their towns with spotty safety records carrying Bakken Shale oil that is more explosive than other petroleum.

At a Jan. 27 Natural Resources Commission meeting with more than 50 people in the audience, the commission voted on a draft set of recommendations, including making formal comment on the environmental review in March.

Deeper, the commission wanted the city to take a position and reach out to civic leaders in other cities along the rail line to invite them to sign the comments Davis makes on the review. One recommendation was for the city to engage with federal agencies to insist on better safety enforcement.

Although the report is for information only, any City Council member may be able to pull it off the consent agenda — usually packed with items that are deemed noncontroversial — if they so choose.

— Reach Dave Ryan at 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews


Discussion | 8 comments

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  • February 11, 2014 - 10:52 am

    What does “spotty safety records” actually mean? I can’t remember the last major train accident or derailment in N. California. How about just requiring oil trains to travel slower through towns like Davis? Wouldn’t that dramatically increase the railroads already safe record? I don’t think the real issue is about safety, it’s about stopping the much needed flow of oil through America with scare tactics and red tape. The Keystone Pipeline would take much of the volatile oil off the rails but the “environmentalists” are against that too.

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  • Rich RifkinFebruary 11, 2014 - 11:39 am

    "I can’t remember the last major train accident or derailment in N. California." .......... Two passenger trains collided in Oakland on October 12, 2011. 16 people were injured. It was a low-speed crash, but still dangerous. It would have been far worse had one of the trains been carrying flammable materials like crude oil. Accidents of that variety seem to happen about once a year in California, less often if you limit it to N. Cal. I would guess the worst environmental disaster from a train accident was the Dunsmuir spill of 1997.

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  • February 11, 2014 - 1:04 pm

    OK, point taken. However, 16 people injured is not a major train accident by any means. Slowing oil trains down through cities would be a safe practical solution that I haven't seen in any of these articles. However, I don't think they want solutions. They just want to stop it with their anti fossil fuel agenda. I just don't think it's a realistic approach.

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  • Rich RifkinFebruary 11, 2014 - 4:27 pm

    In my opinion--and I gather it is yours, too--the best solution would be to construct pipelines which transport crude oil from wellheads to refineries. Unlike a railroad, which necessarily is routed from town to town, a pipeline can be situated away from population centers and away from sensitive environments. And thus, if there is an accident, the damage and danger is far less. Additionally, pipeline transport is half of what rail transport of crude costs. .......... However, as long as crude is moving by train, the regulations need to be strict to reduce the chance of a serious accident. I would think that would include moving trains more slowly where derailment risks are higher; and requiring the tanker cars to have as many safety features built in as is practical.

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  • February 11, 2014 - 7:32 pm

    I agree. I’ve read several articles in the Enterprise regarding oil trains, so Davis is obviously concerned about this. The Congressman, City Council, DOT and the railroad should meet to try to address concerns about oil trains and maybe come up with a sensible agreement on safety. Like it or not, the oil is coming.

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  • Alan MillerFebruary 12, 2014 - 12:21 am

    Anonymous Person, There have been several major train wrecks, the worst that comes to mind is north of Madera about 5 years ago where trains collided head on -- that doesn't mean rail in unsafe relatively. However, four trains of Bakken Crude have derailed in US&Canada in the last six months, and every one had a puncture followed by fire and explosion. Three occurred outside towns, but the one that occurred in a town killed 47 people and leveled about a half mile radius out from the center. That's serious S---. Davis in particular is vulnerable due to a track structure here that has been a cause of several fatal derailments.

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  • sasshaFebruary 11, 2014 - 7:30 pm

    I take 'anonymous's' comments to mean 16 injuries/deaths are not major...unless he/she happens to be among the injured or dying. Sounds very anti-alternative, tsk! tsk.! Folks need to wise up and decide if they want to be part of the problem or part of the solution.

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  • MLFebruary 11, 2014 - 7:58 pm

    Misinformation and hyperbole don't help. The Amtrak passenger trains involved had a low speed accident, and the "injuries" were minor and non life-threatening. A few were taken to the hospital. There were no deaths. The Keystone Pipeline sounds as safe as possible. But heck, men fall off of houses and get seriously injured installing solar panels ... there is a risk with everything.

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